KENOSHA, WIS. – Attorneys are set to make final arguments Monday at Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial in the shooting of three men during street unrest in Wisconsin, the last word before compensation. The jury began deliberation in a case that highlighted America’s bitter divisions on gun issues, protests and policy.
Rittenhouse, 18, of Antioch, Ill., faces charges ranging from attempted murder – punishable by life in prison – to underage use of a weapon that can carry jail time months if convicted.
Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, traveled several miles from his home across the state border to Kenosha on August 25, 2020, when the city was in the midst of a riot of damaging protests after a white cop shot Jacob Blake, a black man. man, following a call to a disturbance in the house.
Bystander’s video captures the pivotal moments when Rittenhouse, with a Smith and Wesson AR-style semi-automatic rifle, shot dead Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.
Rittenhouse was white, as were the three men he shot. The incident raises questions about the racial justice, policies, weapons and privileges of whites that polarize people far outside of Kenosha.
Rittenhouse argued for the right to self-defense in the shootings, leaving prosecutors with the responsibility to prove that the fear for his safety and his use of deadly force was unreasonable. Several legal experts who watched the trial said the prosecution had struggled to do so.
Perhaps in recognition of that, prosecutors asked Judge Bruce Schroeder to let the jury consider some of the lesser charges if they were acquitted of the original charges. Schroeder indicated on Friday that he would allow some of the things prosecutors had sought when he gave grand jury instructions on Monday.
Prosecutors, led by Assistant Kenosha District Attorney Thomas Binger, sought to portray Rittenhouse as the aggressor on the night of the shooting. Binger also emphasized Rittenhouse’s youth and inexperience, noting to jurors that of all the armed men in Kenosha that night, only Rittenhouse shot people.
But key witnesses seem to back up Rittenhouse’s claims of self-defense.
Cinematographer Richie McGinniss testified that Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse and rushed to grab his rifle just before Rittenhouse shot him. Ryan Balch, a former soldier on Rittenhouse’s group that night, testified that Rosenbaum threatened to kill Rittenhouse and the others if he took them alone.
Grosskreutz, the only person shot alive, admitted that he had a gun in his hand when he approached Rittenhouse and it was pointed at him.
Among the most convincing moments of the trial was Rittenhouse’s own testimony. During about six hours in the stands – most of which was ready and realistic – he said he was afraid Rosenbaum would take his gun and shoot both himself and the others. He said he never wanted to kill anyone.
“I did nothing wrong. I defended myself,” Rittenhouse said.
With prosecutors trying to focus the juries on the totality of what Rittenhouse did, starting with the decision to fire a gun on Kenosha, the defense tried to steer them toward about 3 minutes starting with Rosenbaum Rittenhouse pursuit – stage at the heart of his self-defense claim.
Following the conclusion of the argument, names were drawn to determine which 12 of the 18 jurors who heard the testimony would consider.
With the ruling nearing, Governor Tony Evers said that 500 National Guard members would be prepared for duty in Kenosha if local law enforcement asked them to.
Bauer reported from Madison and Forliti reported from Minneapolis.